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Alaska RR Whistle Stop Train Page 2

Alaska Railroad Whistle Stop

Southcentral Alaska
June 27, 2008

Story and photographs copyright 2008 by Richard Elgenson
RailNews Network writer
Above left, a view towards Portage.  Above right, just a bald eagle, which are a dime a dozen around here.  Below left, looking towards the greater Anchorage area.  Soon we were at Girdwood, where a small group of passengers were waiting to board the Glacier Discovery/Whistle Stop train.
The Whistle Stop train was moved forward for a meet with an Anchorage bound passenger train, known as the Cruise Train.  This train either originated from Whittier or Seward taking cruise ship passengers from their ship at the end of their cruise to Anchorage.  Whistle Stop Conductor Mark Bear is seen giving instructions to his engineer.
The Cruise Train is made up of beautiful passenger cars with wrap around windows from seat level to the ceiling.
Just a few more miles down the track, we reached Portage Junction, where the 12 mile branch track heads to Whittier.  At Portage, our train picked up several bus loads of doctors and their families who were attending a convention in Girdwood.  They were either going to go on the float trip or stay on the train for wildlife viewing.
The Whistle Stop train traverses towards the first of two lengthy tunnels.  Below right, the low clouds and rain are masking Portage Glacier.
Below right, cars are waiting for their turn to drive through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel.
After the Whistle Stop train reached Whittier, I volunteered to exit the train to buy batteries for one of the young women nearby my seat.  I quickly found the store, purchased the batteries and thought "I should keep walking to Varley's Swiftwater Seafood Cafe and buy lunch."  The moment Margaret Williams spotted me she said "hello Richard!" though I had not seen her in several years.  If you spend more than a few minutes in Whittier, I highly recommend patronizing Varley's.  They specialize in delicious fresh fish.  I walked back to the train with the batteries and my lunch.  I found a table at the end of one passenger car and started consuming the lunch.  The few people who walked by all wanted some of my lunch from Varley's.

After the 45 minute pause in Whittier, the Whistle Stop train reversed direction on its way back to Portage and points away from Anchorage.  The lily pads and waterfalls are spectacular.

The Whistle Stop

A lot of people detrained at the Whistle Stop/float trip location.  Two people had full backpacks and took off while another couple did their own hike.  All of the other people who went boating took a very short bus ride to the launch location.  This trackside Whistle Stop is the first of 5 planned  locations.  Here one finds newly built shelters with plenty of historical and contemporary information.  This is the railhead opening to a recreation area open for reserved camping in developed group fee based campsites.  Outside the recreation area, camping is no fee andr reservation free without services.  In other works, bring everything yourself.

Whistle Stop Page 3